“I experienced mental-health issues throughout most of my life,” admits Zak Williams. “So with this product we’re introducing, we wanted to provide a foundation for mental-health support.”
Williams just launched PYM (Prepare Your Mind) Original Mood Chews, a gummy-like edible that’s explicitly not CBD but is supposed to help combat stress and trauma with a natural formulation. The son of the late comedian/actor Robin Williams, Zak had experienced anxiety issues in his teens and twenties, which led to panic attacks and, as he notes, a lot of ineffectual self-medication.
“When it came to my dad dying by suicide, those issues went into overdrive,” he tells us. “I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and my levels of stress and anxiety went through the roof. I started using alcohol to manage my anxiety; that didn’t work too well. And cannabis made the anxiety worse.”
After a try with prescription pharmaceuticals (“they made me numb and not like myself”) Williams found two pathways to an improved state of mind. The first was a personal commitment to focus on mental health advocacy and work with nonprofit groups within that space. The second was testing out amino acid formulations and other natural compounds to try and help his anxiety, while taking alcohol and other substances out of the equation.
Which is how PYM launched. The citrus-flavored “chews” contain the neurotransmitters, amino acids and adaptogens GABA, L-Theanine and Rhodiola together as kind of a quick, easily digestible remedy for anxiety and stress.
“There is a role for pharmaceuticals and clinical treatment,” explains Dr. Raghu Appasani, a research psychiatrist and mental-health advocate who’s part of PYM’s scientific advisory board. “But I see PYM as something you could easily incorporate into a healthy lifestyle. It’s like brushing your teeth or showering but it’s mental hygiene.”
“You can treat it like a vitamin and take at the beginning or end of your day, or use like a painkiller if you’re anticipating anxiety or being overwhelmed,” adds Olivia June, the product’s co-founder (and as of last week, Williams’s spouse).
I was admittedly skeptical. I tried PYM a few times (directions: chew for 20 seconds, then swallow; the taste and texture is inoffensive and bland, like a mildly fruity gummy). I was supposed to feel results in 20 minutes, and I certainly can’t say I felt worse after I took it. Things did feel a bit “lighter” and my focus was possibly stronger, but I also wasn’t sure if I was just experiencing a placebo effect.
While there’s plenty of of published science behind amino acids and adaptogens, even the founders of PYM are working off anecdotal evidence. When I asked how the efficacy of a chew could be specifically measured, Williams and his team were honest — it’s a work in progress.
“We worked with friends, family and a close network of about 30 people who took prototypes,” he explains. “We wanted to get some initial validation about it. It worked for almost everyone, but we went through three iterations in total to get something we felt confident about. Now we’re going to segue into a more formal clinical study over the next few months, using control groups and working with 400 trial participants.”
So PYM’s effectiveness might not be quantifiable to a degree we’d all like. Still, mental health is a critical issue in this country (anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults, which is 18% of the U.S. population) and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has certainly increased levels of anxiety and stress. Finding a more natural way to combat this that doesn’t involve the letters C, B or D is a noble endeavor.
As well, even the founders note that PYM is only part of a larger lifestyle change, one that might involve meditation, mindfulness activities, a healthy diet and fitness.
“We’re seeking to replace unhealthy habits and self-medicating,” says Williams. “Look, I have no issues with properly prescribed medication and I appreciate people who can drink wine and enjoy it, but if they were using alcohol like I was to manage my anxiety … I was actually damaging my mental health. I wanted something safe and effective.”
As for the product name — you can thank Robin Williams, indirectly. “Pym is actually my middle name,” says Zak, who then chuckles. “My dad gave me that name because it sounded ‘vaguely Welsh.’”